The pulls between motherhood and career ambition starts well before we become mothers.
I remember friends talking about their plans to become mothers when we were in grade school. In high school, when we were applying to colleges, a few friends contemplated teaching degrees so they’d have summers off with their future children.
The trend continued into adulthood as friends and colleagues shied away from opportunities because one day they’d become mothers. I’ll admit I didn’t understand it then (I wasn’t sure about becoming a mama until my first pregnancy).
Things clicked for me when we were trying for a second baby and I learned I had to find a new job (I share more in this video).
My desire for another baby loomed like a cloud over my every decision. And, I feared I’d let it slip that I had babies on the brain in my interviews.
Why? Because the bias against women of “marrying” or “mommying” age is implicit. Recruiters now recommend women not wear engagement rings to their interviews. And, I’m sure others would advise against sharing your baby-making plans as well.
And, while no company can legally ask if you’re planning to get married or have a baby, they do ask other questions that can lead us into murky waters. Like the dreaded “Where do you see yourself in 2 or 5 years?” or other future-focused questions.
The truth is, this question isn’t asked to uncover our life plans. The aim is to understand our intentions about the job and our future with the company. Recruiting, hiring and training for a new role is a long, time-consuming and costly process. So, companies want to be sure they make the right choice.
So if your answer leaves any doubt about your long-term intentions with the company, it’s unlikely you’ll be the chosen candidate.
To nail this question and land the job, even if you’ve got babies on the brain, here are a few tips for you to keep in mind:
Honesty is always the best policy
That’s mainly why you’ve gotten this far along in the hiring process. You’re being considered for the job because of your proven skills, previous experience, references and interviewing success.
Here’s the thing, though. As specific and honest as you’ve been about everything career related, it’s okay to offer a general response. A good one to start with for this question: “I see myself here.”
Back it up with professional goals
Remember this is a job interview, not a life interview. Your marital or family situation doesn’t need to be considered here.
Stay focused on your professional aspirations and career goals for the next five years. Then share how they align with the company you’re looking to join. Also consider how this company will help you attain them and why they are important to you.
Focus on your real life today
We all have hopes and dreams for our lives – professionally and personally. But, here’s the tricky thing about life: we don’t always get what we want. Circumstances change, we grow, and the things we may want today may not be in the cards for us later on.
Instead of worrying about how your future marriage or family situation will affect your career goals, be sure you base your goals on your current, very real situation as it is today, not as you wish it to be someday.
With that said, consider emphasizing the following:
- Your long-term career goals as they relate to the company’s objectives.
- How this role can help you pursue those goals for the benefit of the company.
- Your interest in growing within the company.
By all means, if questions like “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” (or any follow-ups) make you feel uncomfortable, remember, you don’t have to answer them.
Questions asked during an interview should focus on your qualifications for the job, not personal matters. Professional recruiters know which questions are legal to ask during an interview, but others in the hiring process might slip in a personal or inappropriate one.
If you’re not sure, you can gauge your sensitivity to a question by asking yourself if a man would be asked the same questions. If your answer is no, then find a way to pivot the conversation back to the task at hand, or if you’re so bold, tell your interviewer why you won’t answer their question.
No matter how you handle the situation in the moment, if you’re uncomfortable with any line of questioning, you may want to consider if the company is worthy of your talents.
Good lucky, lady! I hope these tips help you nail your dream job. If you have any other interviewing tips working moms should know about, share them in the comments below.
A version of this article was originally published on Fairygodboss.